Tennessee Ernie Ford, Minnie Pearl and Cliffie at the 1990 Country Music Association’s Award Show (televised on CBS-TV). Excerpts from Cliffie’s talent show book: “Since I’m a country guy, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Minnie Pearl, country’s treasured CMA Hall of Fame comedienne. Whenever she and Ernie got on stage together – look out! Their homespun and natural sense of humor always rocked the walls of the Grand Ole Opry or any TNN television shows that they appeared on together. I’ll never forget the limo ride that Joan Carol and I took with them when we were going to NBC studios to tape Ernie’s 50th anniversary in show business for The Nashville Network. They were so hilarious, and I wish that I could have had a tape recorder turned on at that time.” Minnie Pearl was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1975; in 1986, she was a recipient of the ACM’s “Pioneer Award.” In 1992, she was awarded the “National Medal of Arts.” In 2002, she was ranked #14 on CMT’s ‘40 Greatest Women in Country Music’” list. Cliffie was inducted into the CMA Hall of Fame in 1989. Tonight, it would be Ernie Ford’s turn to be inducted into the CMA Hall of Fame. A brief background on Sarah Colley-Cannon, who developed the Minnie Pearl character. Sarah Colley was born in Centerville, TN, which is 50 miles from Nashville. She graduated from Ward-Belmont University (Nashville's most prestigious school for young ladies), where she majored in theater studies and dance. In Baileyton, Alabama, she met a mountain woman whose style and way of talking would become the model of her “Minnie Pearl” character. Sarah’s first stage performance as Minnie Pearl was in 1939. In 1940, several executives from the Nashville radio station WSM-AM saw her perform at a bankers’ convention in Centerville TN, and they asked her if she would like to appear on the Grand Ole Opry. Her debut appearance was on November 30, 1940, which was such a success that she became a regular member on the Grand Ole Opry. She always wore a simple, country style dress as well as a hat that had a $1.98 price tag dangling down from it. She would come out on stage and loudly yell her opening line, “How-Dee-EEE. I’m jes’ so proud to be here!” Her style of comedy was gentle satire of rural Southern culture – also known as “hillbilly.” Her routines involved her ‘never-do-well’ relatives, especially “Uncle Nabob.” She enjoyed singing comedic novelty songs. Her exit line as she left the stage was, “I love you so much it hurts,” which endeared her even more to her audience. In 1947, Sarah (Minnie) married a World War II fighter pilot, Henry Cannon, who set up his own air charter service for top country music performers. Some of the television shows that Minnie appeared on were: ABC’s ‘Ozark Jubilee’; CBS country variety show, ‘Hee Haw’; NBC’ s ‘The Ford Show’ starring Tennessee Ernie Ford; and Ralph Emery’s ‘Nashville Now,” which was on TNN (The Nashville Network). Since country music was a male dominated industry during this time frame and since everyone loved her, it goes without saying that she became an important influence on younger female country music singers as well as up-and-coming country comedians, such as Jeff Foxworthy and Larry, the Cable Guy..